Yoyo dieting is the dieter’s version of repeatedly falling off the wagon! From celebrity women like US talk-show host Oprah and Vogue cover girl Gemma Ward to the people you meet every day, most of us have hitched a ride on this terrifying Ferris wheel at some point in our lives. Even if you have been on this trip more times than you care to admit, there is still hope.
Of Mice and Men – Why you need to stop yo-yoing today
A restrictive diet triggers your body’s starvation response. This means that as soon as you stop your diet and go back to eating normally, your body goes into ‘survival mode’ and rapidly accumulates fat to stave off the next starvation bout. Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania studied the effects of yoyo dieting on rats. Two sets of rats were fed a high calorie diet throughout the experiment – the first set consumed high-fat foods for the entire duration, while the second set was put on a calorie restrictive diet twice during the same time period. Shockingly, the rats who were on the yoyo diet gained more weight than the rats who were exclusively on the high calorie diet.
The game plan- you call the shots!
You may have several failed attempts, under your belt (quite literally), but that does not mean that you should resign yourself to a life of weight gain and obesity. You don’t need a 12 step programme to stay on the wagon, these 5 steps will suffice:
Make healthy substitutions in your current diet: Keep a diet diary for 3 days to track your eating habits and caloric intake. Most people indulge in a minimum of two snacks daily and invariably these snacks are high calorie foods like doughnuts, nachos, chips or ice cream. Don’t try to eliminate these daily snacks from your diet; instead, make sure that they are healthy and wholesome. Your snack should satisfy your hunger pangs, so instead of opting for a single apple, go for a small fruit platter or a bowl of unsweetened whole wheat cereal. In your eagerness to lose weight, you may be tempted to skip this step but doing so will decrease your chances of sticking to your diet and achieving that bikini bod!
Go on a Pre-Diet Plan: You come across the latest ‘assured‘ weight loss diet plan while thumbing through a Cosmo at the dentist and you can’t wait to go home and start, pain be dammed. Don’t even think of it! Remember all your failed diet plans and remind yourself that this time you are in it for the long haul. Research several low calorie diet plans and then pick one that is healthy and not too restrictive. Compare your current eating habits to your diet plan and then write out a ‘Pre-Diet Plan‘. This pre diet plan should be a bridge between your current eating habits and your desired diet. This means that if you are currently eating 4 snacks a day and the diet plan of your choice restricts you to just 2 snacks, your pre-diet plan would allow you to have 3 snacks a day. Your pre diet plan should last a minimum of 2 weeks so that you are sufficiently prepared, both physically and mentally, for your new diet.
Start your new diet plan: The early bird… sticks to her diet! Get to bed early the night before day #1 of your diet so you can wake up early. Indulge in a leisurely breakfast while listening to music, or squeeze in a quick yoga session so that your diet is off to a good start. Make changes to your daily routine to help you stay focused; for instance, don’t park yourself in front of the television the moment you get home, but instead make a smoothie and then treat yourself to a long shower. When you get out of the shower, you will feel refreshed and energized AND you will have a chilled smoothie waiting for you.
Avoid cheat days: There is much debate over whether cheat days will help you to stick to a diet or send you spiralling out of control. To be fair, there are a lot of valid points on both sides of the argument and it is most likely that it is subjective, so to each his own. To be on the safe side, avoid cheat days for the first 20 days of your diet, after which you can include a single cheat day if you require it. However, if you find yourself excusing your ‘cheating‘ behaviour on non-cheat days, perhaps it is best that you avoid them altogether.
Get social support: You may be on a diet but that doesn’t mean that you can’t kick back with a friend and chew the fat! Social support is probably the most neglected aspect of weight loss. Your diet affects your mood just as much as your mood affects your diet so it is important that you get the support you need. If your friends scoff at your repeated attempts to lose weight, don’t approach them for support; instead, join a weight loss forum and share your story with thousands of other women who can understand what you are going through and can offer support, advice and tips to help you stick to your diet.
Staying motivated is the key to weight loss. You may try to tell yourself that you could lose weight if only you had a personal trainer or your own nutritionist – you didn’t need them to help you put on the weight, so you don’t need them to help take it off! Celebrities like Lady Gaga, Jessica Simpson, Christina Aguilera and Chanelle Hayes have high paid personal trainers and yet they experienced massive weight gain, which just goes to show that if you are not motivated, you cannot be successful.
Brownell KD, Greenwood MR, Stellar E, Shrager EE. The effects of repeated cycles of weight loss and regain in rats. Physiol Behav. 1986 Oct;38(4):459-64. PubMed PMID: 3823159.
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